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School of Human Ecology

Human Development and Family Studies

Human Development and Family Studies Major Requirements
Certificate Programs

4198 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-2381; hdfs@mail.sohe.wisc.edu; sohe.wisc.edu/hdfs/

Professors Barber, Bogenschneider, Poehlmann, Riley, Roberts, Small, Uttal; Associate Professor Papp; Assistant Professors Dilworth-Bart, Halpern-Meekin, Hartley, Kirkorian, Sparks

The major in human development and family studies (HDFS) covers human development across the lifespan, as it unfolds in its real-world contexts, particularly in the context of family life. The major prepares students for entry-level positions in child and family service organizations, and for professional or graduate school.

As suggested by the name of this major, "development" is one main strand and "family" is another. Students will learn about each, and about the ways these two systems (individual and social context) interact with each other (for example, how family and cultural differences affect individual development, how individual development affects families and communities).

The major offers students flexibility to pursue individually tailored programs through course work and an internship. The curriculum is designed to meet six learning outcomes and five domains of professional skills. In brief, the six learning outcomes are:

  1. Lifespan development: knowledge of lifespan human development (intellectual and social/emotional development) including both normative development and individual differences, as it occurs in its real-world contexts.
  2. Family and cultural variation: knowledge of family and community diversity.
  3. Internal family processes: knowledge of internal family processes, including parenting and parent-child relations, couples and family relationships across generations, and family health and well-being.
  4. External family processes: ability to evaluate how children, adults, and families affect and are affected by policies, media, or other social institutions.
  5. Applied practice: knowledge about the effective and ethical practice of assessment, prevention, intervention or outreach for individuals and families.
  6. Research: ability to understand, evaluate, and ethically conduct social science research.

Admission of on-campus applicants is competitive and occurs in the spring and fall semesters. No single criterion guarantees admission or prevents it. The following are key factors in favor of admission:

  • A cumulative grade point average of 2.8
  • Excellent grades in completed HDFS or related courses
  • A good fit of the applicant’s goals with the major
  • The applicant brings something useful to the department and courses (for example, work or life experiences).
  • The application demonstrates excellent thinking and writing ability.

Application deadlines and procedures for SoHE programs are available at this link. Curriculum checksheets and program specific information are available at this link. On-campus students interested in learning about program admissions are encouraged to contact the Student Academic Affairs Office (acadaffairs@mail.sohe.wisc.edu; 608-262-2608) to register for a "Becoming a SoHE Student" session.

Effective fall 2012, the major in human development and family studies  no longer has two options (child development or family studies); rather, new students are enrolled in one consolidated HDFS major that provides flexibility for students to pursue electives that meet their own areas of interest.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are optional and are not required for graduation. UW–Madison-sponsored programs that may be relevant for HDFS students include:

NCFR Family Life Educator Certificate: Completion of the Family Studies option may qualify some graduating students for the Family Life Educator Certificate awarded by the National Council on Family Relations. Additional information is available at the NCFR website.

Criminal Justice Certificate: The Criminal Justice Certificate Program is a special sequence of courses and field work for students wanting to learn about the dynamics of America's criminal and juvenile justice systems. For additional information see Criminal Justice Certificate Program.

Gender and Women's Studies Certificate: This certificate program is open to undergraduates, graduate students and special students and requires 15 credits in gender and women's studies. For additional information see Undergraduate Certificate in Gender and Women's Studies.

Gerontology Certificate:  The Specialist in Gerontology Certificate is designed to provide students with a broad, multidisciplinary overview of the field of aging. The information gained through completing the certificate program can help individuals, not only in their careers, but also in their personal lives as they and members of their families age. Additional information is available at the Gerontology Certificate website.